Smoked Brisket Flat (The Ultimate Guide)
on Jun 16, 2023, Updated Jan 01, 2024
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Smoked brisket flat, when done right, is so tender and juicy that it almost melts in your mouth. It’s part of the magic of knowing how to make good smoker recipes.
I’m not ashamed that using a smoker to make delicious beef recipes, mouthwatering pork dishes, and even smoked fish has become my latest cooking obsession. I’ve even been known to spend part of Christmas day making great recipes like smoked pork loin!
This is one of the best cuts of beef to smoke and today, I will guide you through the heavenly world of perfectly smoked brisket flat. Much of my meat smoking is inspired by none other than Aaron Franklin, a true pitmaster legend.
Table of Contents
- About this
- What you need to smoke a brisket flat
- Ingredients for smoked brisket flat
- How to choose the best brisket flat
- How to smoke a brisket flat
- Timeline for making a smoked brisket flat (10 to 12 Hours)
- Switch it up: variations and substitutions
- My top 5 tips for smoking a brisket flat
- Perfect pairings: what to serve with brisket
- Common questions
- How to use leftover smoked brisket
- More Smoker Recipes
- Smoked Brisket Flat Recipe
This recipe for making a smoked brisket flat is special because it’s more than a list of ingredients and steps—it’s the culmination of countless hours spent testing, eating, and perfecting the art of smoking a brisket flat.
A great smoked brisket never happens by itself. There are a few key factors that play into how it turns out, just like any other recipe.
Smoking a brisket flat is a great alternative to smoking a whole packer brisket. It takes much less time and will generally cost you less money. Plus, you can still feed a small army with a smoked brisket flat.
One of the nice things about brisket is that it often make enough for more than one meal. We show you how to reheat a brisket as well.
What you need to smoke a brisket flat
Making one of these takes some planning. You need to get the timing right and you need the right equipment. Besides the ingredients, these are some of the things you will need.
Carefully planning your plan of attack with the smoker will make everything go smoother and help to give you the best smoked brisket flat possible.
You can use any kind of smoker when making a brisket flat. I prefer using a wood offset smoker because I find the quality of the smoker to be the best. I generally use hickory wood when smoking a brisket but this is a matter of preference.
You don’t have to spend much money on a smoker to get great results!
You’ll need a couple of thermometers to monitor the meat. A wireless meat thermometer is essential as it allows you to do other things while your brisket is smoking. These will monitor both the temperature of your smoker and the internal temperature of the meat.
You can set alarms to notify you when you have to adjust the fire and also when your meat has reached the desired temp.
You’ll also want to use a high-quality instant-read thermometer. This is necessary to verify temps in case you get a questionable reading from your other thermometer.
EXPERT TIP: Do not rely on the built-in thermometer of your smoker. These are notoriously inaccurate and often lead to heartache and frustration when you pull your brisket after a long smoke and it is overcooked and ruined. Always calibrate your thermometers on a regular basis to ensure the best accuracy.
A Spray Bottle
You’ll need a spray bottle for many smoker recipes to keep the meat from drying out. You can use almost any liquid you want for this and some popular choices include:
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Apple Juice
- Root Beer
Butcher wrap and Aluminum Foil
These are used to wrap the meat when it reaches the right temperature, which we will discuss later in this post.
You’ll want a good pair of heat-resistant mitts for handling the brisket when it is piping hot.
Ingredients for smoked brisket flat
Here are our key players and what they bring to the table. As a general note, it is best to use less seasoning than more when smoking a brisket flat.
- Brisket flat: This is the leaner cut of the brisket and often easier to handle. While it has less of that yummy intramuscular fat, it’s packed full of flavor and tends to cook more evenly than the point cut, making it perfect for those tender slices.
- Kosher salt: Coarse kosher salt is a must-have for any good rub. It has a dual function in our brisket journey. Firstly, it seeps into the surface of the meat, breaking down the connective tissue that can make the meat tough. Secondly, it seasons our beautiful brisket from within, laying the foundation for a mouthwatering feast.
- Fresh ground black pepper: No respectable brisket rub would be complete without fresh ground black pepper. It adds a touch of heat and works in harmony with the kosher salt, creating a good bark during the smoking process.
How to choose the best brisket flat
You can find a brisket flat at butcher shops, meat markets, and even at places like Costco (where I’ve had great luck finding them.) If you’re looking for high-quality and convenience, you can order a brisket online from Snake River Farms.
You’ll want to consider a few things when choosing the best one.
Choosing the right brisket flat is a crucial step in ensuring you cook up a delicious, mouth-watering smoked brisket. Here are some key things to look out for:
- Quality Matters: Aim for the best quality you can find. The USDA grades beef as Select, Choice, or Prime, with Prime being the best. If you can find it, go for Prime. It has the most marbling, which means more flavor and tenderness. If Prime isn’t available, Choice is a good second option.
- Size and Weight: A good rule of thumb when it comes to brisket flats is to aim for one that’s between 4 to 6 lbs. This size is easier to handle and cooks more evenly than larger cuts.
- Thickness: Look for a brisket flat that’s relatively even in thickness. This will help ensure it cooks evenly. If one side is much thicker than the other, the thin side could end up overcooked.
- Marbling: Marbling refers to the white flecks of fat within the muscle tissue (different from the fat cap on the outside of the brisket). A well-marbled brisket will be more flavorful and tender as the fat melts during cooking, so choose a brisket flat with plenty of marbling.
- The Bend Test: Hold the brisket flat by one end. It should bend or sag downwards under its own weight. If it’s too stiff, it may be too lean, which could result in a drier brisket.
- The Fat Cap: While you want the brisket flat to be lean, you still want there to be a layer of fat on one side (the fat cap). This fat will help keep the brisket moist during the long cooking process. Aim for a fat cap that’s about 1/4-inch thick.
Remember, you might not find the ‘perfect’ brisket every time, and that’s okay. Each one is unique and will have its own character. The important thing is to have fun with the process and learn from each cook.
How to smoke a brisket flat
Whether you are smoking a whole packer brisket or just the flat, you need to do some planning. This is especially true if you use an offset smoker like I prefer because any way you slice it, there will be some sleep deprivation involved!
But it’s worth it. You need to do this a few times to find the best timing system for you. I promise the end result will be worth it!
Start by prepping the meat
Making a smoked brisket flat starts an hour or so before you fire up your smoker. There are three main parts of prepping a brisket and I will go over each one of them with you.
- Trimming the fat and silver skin.
- Allowing it to sit out.
- Seasoning the brisket.
Trim the Brisket Flat
Depending on how thick the fat cap is, you’ll need to trim a lot or a little of it off the meat. Your goal is to have about 1/4 of an inch layer of fat remaining. At this time, we will also remove the silver skin membrane.
A curved boning knife works well for this, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Be sure it’s sharp, and use extreme caution when trimming the fat as it may be slippery and difficult to get a grip on. The last thing you want is a nasty cut on your hand!
Trim the Silver Skin: You’re also going to want to remove as much of the silver skin membrane as possible.
The “silver skin” is a thin layer of tough connective tissue made primarily of a protein called collagen. It often appears silver or white, hence the name “silver skin.”
You’ll notice that is is shiny and has a slippery texture, which can make it difficult to cut through. It also doesn’t break down as easily as fat during the cooking process, and if not removed, it can become tough and chewy in the finished dish.
Trimming the silver skin from a brisket can be a bit tricky, but with a little patience and a good, sharp knife, you can get the job done effectively. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Get a Good Knife: A boning knife is ideal for this task. It’s flexible, sharp, and allows for precise trimming.
- Start at One End: Position the brisket on a clean cutting board with the silver skin facing up. Start at one end of the brisket, sliding the knife under the silver skin.
- Keep the Knife Angled Up: As you slide the knife, try to keep it angled slightly upwards. This will help to ensure that you’re removing the silver skin and as little meat as possible.
- Slow and Steady: Don’t rush the process. Take your time to cut away the silver skin while preserving as much of the meat underneath as you can.
- Pull and Trim: As you make progress, you can start to pull on the silver skin with your other hand, using a paper towel for grip if necessary. This will help to expose the silver skin and make it easier to trim off.
The goal isn’t to remove every last bit of silver skin but to remove as much as possible without cutting into the meat excessively. It’s okay if small bits remain, as these will typically break down during the long, slow cooking process.
This will bring the meat closer to room temperature and make the smoking process faster and more even. This first step is one of the most important ones for smoking a brisket.
EXPERT TIP: Before removing the meat from the refrigerator, place it in your freezer for a half-hour. This will make trimming the fat easier as it is a bit more solid and less squishy.
Allow the Brisket to Sit Out Before Putting it on the Smoker
You should let your brisket sit out of the refrigerator for about an hour before you plan to start smoking it. This allows it to come up to room temperature, which can help it cook more evenly once it hits the heat.
But remember, this is just a guideline. The actual time can vary based on the size of the meat and the temperature of your kitchen. For a large whole packer brisket, you might need a bit more time. For a smaller brisket flat, an hour might be just right.
Always remember food safety while doing this. You don’t want to leave the meat out for longer than two hours, which can increase the bacterial growth risk. And as always, make sure to wash your hands and any surfaces or utensils that come into contact with raw meat.
Once your brisket has come up to room temperature, it’s time to apply your rub and get it on the smoker.
Season the Brisket Flat
When it comes to seasoning a brisket flat, simple is always best. You’re going to get a lot of flavor from the smoking process and from the meat itself. You don’t want to overpower either of these components!
I like to use a layer of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. That’s it! Don’t overdo it with either one of those. Usually, I season a brisket flat right after I’m done trimming it. This allows the flavors to penetrate a bit while it is sitting out and the smoker is fired up and coming up to temperature.
Preheat the Smoker
You’ll want to smoke the brisket flat at a temperature of around 250 degrees. It’s important to bring your smoker up to temperature before placing in the smoking chamber.
Start the fire
I like to start my fire with some lump charcoal to help get the smoker to the right temperature. Use a charcoal chimney to start your fire with a little paper at the bottom. This is better than using a liquid charcoal starter, as you won’t get that nasty chemical flavor on your meat.
If you’re making the brisket flat on a Traeger or other type of pellet smoker, you can just set the temperature and skip this step.
Use a water pan
Using a water pan when making a smoked brisket flat. The water pan helps s in a few ways:
- It creates a humid environment that prevents the brisket from drying out during the lengthy cook time.
- The moisture from the water enhances the smoky flavor by aiding smoke adherence to the meat and helps stabilize the temperature inside the smoker.
Plus, it’s a practical way to catch drippings and prevent potential flare-ups. Just remember to keep the pan topped up with water throughout the cooking process for the best results!
It’s a simple tool that can greatly improve the outcome of your smoked brisket.
EXPERT SMOKING TIP: When you fill the water pan for the first time, use water that is already hot. Do this by heating a saucepan of water on your kitchen stove. You don’t want to place cold water in a hot smoker!
Put the brisket on the smoker
Once the temperature of your smoking chamber reaches 250 degrees, it’s show time!
EXPERT SMOKING TIP – Use a stainless steel cooling wrack instead of placing the meat directly on the smoker grates. This makes it easy to rotate the meat if you want, in case one side gets hotter than the other. It also makes it easy to transfer the meat from the smoker when you’re ready to wrap it and when it is ready to come off.
- Place the meat on your grates, fat cap up, and insert a temp probe into the thickest part of the brisket. You’ll want to allow it to smoke until it reaches an internal temp of 170°. This can take up to five hours or so, depending on the size of your brisket flat.
- Position the meat so the thickest end is closest to the heat source.
- After 90 minutes or so, use a spray bottle and spritz the meat with apple cider vinegar. You only need to do a quick spritz and do not over-saturate the meat or you’ll have steamed brisket instead of a smoked brisket flat! Repeat this every 45 minutes until we wrap it at around 170°.
EXPERT SMOKING TIP: Whenever making a smoked brisket flat, minimize the number of times you open the smoking chamber. In other words, try not to peak! That’s why you’ll want a remote internal temp probe. And remember, “If you’re lookin’ you ain’t cookin’!”
When to wrap a brisket flat
Once the internal temperature reaches 170°, it’s time to wrap the meat. I have done this as early as 150° will equally delicious results. Wrapping the meat will help lock in moisture and speed the time it takes to reach your goal temperature of 205°. You don’t have to wrap, but I can’t think of any reason not do so!
If you are a purist and a bit of a masochist, you can finish the brisket on the smoker.
On the other hand, if you’ve had enough of tending the fire and closely monitoring the temperature, you can finish if off in your kitchen oven. I’ve done both and I’m going to say I prefer the oven method!
How to finish a wrapped brisket on the smoker
- Prepare a liquid base to help keep the meat juicy while it finishes smoking. To do this, heat 1/4 cup beef broth (you can use Better Than Bouillon with water), one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, and a pinch of salt.
- Tear two or three long sheets of butcher wrap and overlap them a bit lengthwise. Place the brisket flat on the paper and pour the heated liquid over the meat.
- Tightly wrap the brisket and reinsert the temperature probe into the thickest part. Place back on the smoker.
- Smoke to an internal temp of 205°.
How to finish a wrapped brisket in the oven
If you’ve been smoking your brisket and want to finish it off in the oven, here’s a quick and simple guide.
- After you’ve wrapped your brisket in aluminum foil, preheat your oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the wrapped brisket on a rimmed baking tray to catch any drippings and slide it into the oven.
- Cook until the brisket’s internal temperature reaches 205 degrees Fahrenheit, which you can check using an instant-read thermometer.
- Then, let your brisket rest for at least an hour before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute.
You may lose some of the crispness of the bark if you finish it in the oven. But after 10 hours or so of the smoking process, you will not care, believe me! The flavor will still be outstanding.
Timeline for making a smoked brisket flat (10 to 12 Hours)
If you’re wondering how long it takes to make a smoked brisket flatt, add a couple of hours to your best guess. In general, plan on about an hour and a half per pound of meat. So, for a 7 lbs brisket, you’re looking at about 10 hours, start to finish.
The timeline assumes that the smoker maintains a consistent temperature of 250° F. throughout the smoking process. Adjustments may be needed based on individual preferences and variations in cooking equipment and the total weight of your brisket flat.
Switch it up: variations and substitutions
Got a brisket point or a whole packer? No problem! The point cut has more fat which lends itself to slow cooking beautifully. The smoking time will just take longer because it is thicker than a flat.
If you don’t have a pellet grill or offset smoker, it’s also easy to make a smoked brisket flat in an electric smoker. I’ve used all three types of smokers and I find that the quality of smoke from an offset smoker is hands-down superior to the other types.
A charcoal grill will work just fine, too – it might even add some extra smoky flavors.
And while a traditional rub of kosher salt and black pepper is a classic for a reason, don’t be afraid to experiment with a dry rub for a smoked brisket flat.
Add garlic powder or onion powder for a punch of flavor, or sprinkle in some brown sugar for a hint of sweetness to balance the spice.
My top 5 tips for smoking a brisket flat
- Select Quality Meat: Start with a good quality brisket flat. Look for marbling (intramuscular fat), which gives the brisket flavor and tenderness. If available, go for USDA Prime or Choice grade beef.
- Proper Trimming: Trim your brisket flat properly. Remove the silver skin and any excess fat, leaving a thin layer of fat (about 1/4-inch) to keep it moist during the long cooking process.
- Effective Seasoning: Use a simple but effective dry rub. A classic mix is equal parts kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. This enhances the beefy flavor of the brisket without overwhelming it.
- Controlled Temperature: Maintain a low, consistent temperature on your smoker. The ideal range is around 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. Slow and steady wins the race when smoking a brisket.
- Patience: Allow enough time for the brisket to smoke properly and don’t rush the process. Depending on the size of your brisket flat and the exact temperature of your smoker, this can take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours. Patience is key to achieving a tender, flavorful brisket.
Follow these tips, and you’re on your way to mastering the art of smoking brisket!
Perfect pairings: what to serve with brisket
Your smoked brisket flat is going to be the star of the show, no doubt. But even stars shine brighter with a supporting cast.
Creamy coleslaw or potato salad, BBQ baked beans, mac and cheese, lettuce salad, or even a simple slice of white bread and some pickles can cut through the richness of the smoky flavors, making each bite of brisket even more delightful.
It might seem like a tall order if this is your first time cooking brisket. But don’t worry. With this guide, you’re in the right place.
Figure on about 1/2 lb of brisket per person. After trimming the fat, a 7 lb brisket flat should easily feed 10 people. We wrote an entire post on how much brisket you need per person. Be sure and check it out!
Good question! You’ll want to trim off any excess fat, leaving about a quarter-inch layer. This layer of fat (the fat cap) will protect the leaner sides of the brisket from drying out during the long cooking time.
Use a sharp knife to carefully remove any excess fat or silver skin from the surface of the meat.
Well, an instant-read thermometer is your best friend here. Aim for a temperature of 250-275 degrees Fahrenheit in your heat source (your grill or smoker).
Keep a close eye on the meat’s internal temperature as it cooks to ensure it’s progressing nicely.
The thickest part of the brisket will give you the most accurate reading.
You’re aiming for an internal temperature between 203-205 degrees Fahrenheit. I find that a finish temp of 205° will give you the best results. My guests have confirmed this, who have tried many brisket flats that I have smoked to various temperatures! When your brisket hits this sweet spot, you’re guaranteed a tender, juicy brisket that’s cooked to perfection.
How to use leftover smoked brisket
If you have leftovers, consider yourself lucky! I don’t always have leftovers after making a smoked brisket flat, but when i do, there are so many ways I like to use it.
You can slice some up to use in this Thai beef salad or put it in any of the following:
- Put it in some creamy mac and cheese.
- Add it to a mushroom omelette. (Be sure and heat the meat up first.)
- Use it in these beef enchiladas.
- Make a beef pot pie out of it.
- Make leftover brisket tacos.
- Enjoy it in a sandwhich.
The satisfaction of achieving that tender, perfectly cooked brisket, complete with a good, crusty bark, is worth every minute spent. It’s all about patience, attention to detail, and of course, love for good BBQ.
So grab that sharp knife, prepare your dry rub, and get ready to taste the best smoked brisket you’ve ever had. Enjoy the journey, and happy smoking! -Dan
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Smoked Brisket Flat
- 7 lb brisket flat, trimmed and seasoned
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp fresh ground pepper
For the Basting Liquid
- 1/4 cup beef broth
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Remove the meat from your refrigerator for 1-2 hours before putting it on your smoker. Trim the fat while the meat is still cold, and then evenly season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, preheat your smoker to 250°
- After the smoker comes to temperature, place a water pan below the grates and pour a quart of hot water into it. Then, place the meat in the smoker chamber with the thickest end facing the heat source. If using a temp probe, insert it into the thickest part of the meat.
- After 2 hours on the smoker, begin to spray the meat with apple cider vinegar every 45 minutes to an hour, to help keep it from drying out.
- When the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160°, wrap it in butcher paper, with the basting liquid, and continue to smoke it until it reaches an internal temperature of 205°. If you want to finish the brisket flat in an oven, wrap with tight foil, along with the liquid, and finish it off in a preheated oven at 225°.
- When the internal temperature of the brisket flat reaches an internal temperature of 205°, remove it from the smoker (or the oven) and allow it to rest, still wrapped, for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
- Trim the fat while the meat is still chilled.
- Let the meat set out for at least an hour before placing it on the smoker. Do not let it sit out for longer than two hours to help prevent foodborne illness.
- Closely monitor the temperature of your smoker and spray the meat with liquid every hour or so.
- Do not overcook the meat. Do not allow it to exceed an internal temperature of 205° F.
- Allow the meat to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes before serving, but an hour is even better. This is essential for allowing the meat fibers to reabsorb the juices after it comes off the smoker (or out of the oven.)
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.